Public Safety

Audit: Psychic hotline calls, satellite TV among expenses former Delhi clerk charged to public

Report also finds city has ben overcharging its sewer customers for years

While she was clerk of the small Eastern Iowa city of Delhi, Angela J. Billings helped herself to satellite TV. weight loss supplements, calls to a psychic hotline and more than $69,000 in improper paychecks and expenses — nearly all of it on the public’s dime, an audit released Tuesday found.

In addition, the city for six years overcharged its sewer customers by more than a total of a quarter-million dollars by setting a rate that was discussed — but never approved — by the City Council, the audit found.

In all, the special inquiry by Auditor of State Mary Mosiman found more than $500,000 worth of improper spending and billing in the city of 460 people.

Billings, 42, of Anamosa, was arrested Tuesday and faces two counts of first-degree theft and one count of second-degree theft, according to a criminal complaint filed in Delaware County District Court.

Delhi Mayor Terry Harbach didn’t return a phone message Tuesday. Mayor pro-tem Greg Preussner and council member Paul Lechtenberg did not respond to email requests for comment.

Records show Billings used a city credit card to charge $88,160 of personal expenditures, received $63,226 in unauthorized pay and lowered her and her ex-husband’s utility bills by $6,748.

The audit found she paid for a fraction of the personal expenses — $2,419.97 — with personal checks written to the city’s card company.

City officials asked for the state audit last year when Billings resigned to take another job.

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A new city clerk was organizing records when she noticed payments to a credit card she didn’t know at the time belonged to the city. She also noticed utility billing discrepancies.

According to the report, Billings, who was the clerk from 2007 to 2015, made improper purchases on the city’s credit card of nearly $90,000, which included:

• $16,264 at convenience stores;

• $13,780 at Wal-Mart;

• $7,998 at various retail stores;

• $7,822 for cellphone service;

• $5,366 at various grocery stores;

• and $1,798 for late fees, finance charges, electronic payment fees and over-limit fees.

The purchases included 33 charges for psychic hotlines; 27 charges for fitness equipment and weight loss supplements, 889 charges at convenience stores and 166 charges at restaurants, the audit found.

Mosiman said in her report that some of the charges on the credit card were for legitimate city business, but the majority were not.

From March 2007 through June 14, 2008, the city clerk position was part-time and Billings was expected to work only 24 hours per week, the audit report shows. Her position was then made full time by the city, changing it to a 40-hour workweek. Still, based on a review of the timesheets, 173 of the 189 payroll checks issued to her showed hours exceeding those authorized.

The audit found $6,700 of unpaid and unbilled utilities linked to her — including $4,719 in unpaid utility bills for her home and for her ex-husband’s business from March 1, 2007 through Dec. 30, 2014.

“Ms. Billings confirmed she adjusted her personal utility account because she ‘just didn’t have the money to pay it,’ “ the audit reported.

Mosiman said Billings also approved $9,653 of unauthorized reimbursements and mileage for former Police Chief David Weatherwax and more than $2,800 in unauthorized vacation payouts and mileage for a former maintenance employee, among others.

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The $256,660 in overbilling for sewer customers occurred because the city started charging a new base rate of $26 per month beginning in April 2010, which was discussed by the council but never approved in an ordinance, Mosiman said in her report.

The report also shows Billings made utility billing adjustments.

In an interview during the audit, Billings said residents would ask council members or the mayor to adjust their bills, and then the city official would contact her to make the changes.

However, city officials interviewed for the audit denied that, saying they didn’t have the authority to do so without approval from the entire council.

Mosiman identified 376 billing adjustments totaling $136,928 from March 2007 through January 2015. None of those were presented to the council for approval.

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